It was a bittersweet homecoming night at UNCG Soccer Stadium as the Spartans and well-documented rival Buccaneers of ETSU played one another to a 1-1 stalemate. In the aftermath of the match, ETSU sits a 7-5-1 on the season and UNCG sits at 4-7-2.
The summer heat which had been terrorizing the citizens of Greensboro seemingly departed alongside Hurricane Michael as this match was played in the low 50’s throughout. The decreased temperatures alongside the Homecoming festivities brought increased fan support as UNCG Soccer Stadium appeared to have had the largest attendance of the season.
Coinciding with the favorable weather and campus events, Saturday night’s match was also a pivotal one for both UNCG and ETSU as they both battle for supremacy in the Southern Conference (SoCon). The Buccaneers entered the game sitting atop the SoCon with a record of 2-0 in conference play. The Spartans, who were the preseason favorite to win the conference, found themselves off to a slow start in the SoCon, sitting in last at 0-1-1 but still very much in the thick of things.
All these factors combined to make an epic battle between two SoCon powers in a game that may very well serve as foreshadowing to an epic conclusion in the SoCon Tournament.
In a match full of excellent defensive plays, freshman forward Jacob Planell was able to get UNCG on the board first with a goal in the 35th minute, much to the approval of the raucous crowd. Planell was able to astonishingly do this only 17 seconds after he entered the game. Also, the goal was Planell’s third of the season, tying him for the team lead in what continues to seem like the start of a great career for Planell. Following this, redshirt freshman goalie Ricky Zarri fended off numerous scoring attempts to keep the Spartans ahead going into the half.
It did not take long for ETSU to respond, as sophomore forward Danny Barlow was able to score a goal off an ETSU corner kick in the 55th minute, evening the score at 1-1. This was nothing new for Barlow as he continues to make his case for SoCon Player of The Year. Barlow currently leads the SoCon in shots, goals and points. With two more years of eligibility left, expect for Barlow to be a name that’s heard a lot more in the coming years.
Following Barlow’s goal, both teams would not allow the other on the board through the rest of regulation as well as the 20 minutes of overtime. While the Spartans were clearly the more aggressive offensive team and earned far more scoring opportunities than the Buccaneers, ETSU was propelled by numerous highlight saves by freshman goalkeeper Josh Perryman. His excellent play allowed for the Buccaneers to escape UNCG Soccer Stadium with a draw.
The stalemate will allow for UNCG to still be able to finish with a winning record in conference play. The Spartans are currently 0-1-2 in league play and have three remaining games against conference opponents.
As for ETSU, they also do not have much to complain about as they leave one the SoCon’s most hostile environments relatively unscathed. The Buccaneers still sit atop the league standings with a conference record of 2-0-1. Had ETSU lost instead of drawing, they would have fallen to third place in the SoCon as both Wofford and Mercer sit at 2-0 currently as well.
All of this should make for a very finish in the SoCon, as so many teams sit in very close proximity to one another in the standings. UNCG returns to UNCG Soccer Stadium on Oct 27 to wrap up their regular season versus Furman.